Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Why Every School Needs an All Pro Dad {The Statistical Influence of Invested Fathers}

Last Friday our school kicked off 2015-2016 All Pro Dad. I posted this picture

with words of honor for my man and pride in my children's school.

It was met with intrigue - many asking me what the program was and others suggesting the news should pick positivity happening in a local gym.

All Pro Dad is missioned to help fathers "love and lead your family well. Be a hero to your kids."

Following in the footsteps of a great leader, my husband guesstimated food for 150. As time neared, all the tables filled, overflow started into the bleachers, and I ran to the store for more breakfast because what we had was not enough. A WONDERFUL problem. We figure more than 240 (dads + kids) were there.


I stood speechless at the visible investment being made before me. My heart to strengthen families encouraged by what statistics tell us to be true.

  • Children who feel a closeness to their father are: twice as likely as those who do not to enter college or find stable employment after high school, 75% less likely to have a teen birth, 80% less likely to spend time in jail, and half as likely to experience multiple depression symptoms  The Fatherhood Projec

  • High levels of father involvement are correlated with higher levels of sociability, confidence, and self-control in children. Children with involved fathers are less likely to act out in school or engage in risky behaviors in adolescence. The Fatherhood Project

  • Children with actively involved fathers are: 43% more likely to earn A’s in school and 33% less likely to repeat a grade than those without engaged dads. The Fatherhood Project

  • Research shows that even very young children who have experienced high father involvement show an increase in curiosity and in problem solving capacity. Fathers’ involvement seems to encourage children’s exploration of the world around them and confidence in their ability to solve problems. National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse 

  • Father engagement reduces the frequency of behavioral problems in boys while also decreasing delinquency and economic disadvantage in low-income families. The Fatherhood Project

  • Parent connectedness is the number-one factor in preventing girls from engaging in premarital sex and indulging in drugs and alcohol. 76 percent of teen girls said that fathers influenced their decisions on whether they should become sexually active. Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters by Meg Meeker, M.D.

In a world that touts the negative affects of fatherless youth and continually questions how to increase academic test scoring it is time to reframe our thinking. We must forego the old-style stereotype that PTA/PTO is just for women and celebrate the unique piece fathers (or a trusted male mentor) play in students’ lives because without the whole picture we will never achieve complete success.

Ours is a community shaken be a recent school shooting that’s left every parent yearning for a connection with their kids. The irony that this event followed my echo of Mother Teresa’s “Go home. Love your family” call was not lost on me.

And it has me dreaming for all our nation. What might society look like if fathers everywhere gathered around school tables & spoke life into their children’s lives?

I say we give it a try.

**For more information on starting an All Pro Dad unit in your school visit this link. The program provides for you the topic/discussion pieces for each month. To begin only takes one father who cares & an administration wishing school best.**

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

How, Then, Shall We Parent Following the School Shooting?

Yesterday there was a school shooting at a high school just miles from my home. A student entered the office, shot at the principal, and everyone else was made safe thanks to the heroic act of an assistant principal who tackled the boy. Not long afterwards, every parent in our district received a call about the incident, leaving all of us with one question: how do I parent through this?

We live in South Dakota. Sometimes loose cows and “duck disturbances” make Argus911 tweets. This isn’t to say that heartbreak and tragedy doesn’t strike here. It most certainly does. But to think that our area would make CNN for the unthinkable is probably something most of us never imagined to be true.

What was once “out there” became our reality. I saw screenshots on Facebook of texts received from a daughter thinking the gunman was near her only to find out it was the police yelling at them to put their hands up. I saw tear-stained pictures of families reunited. I saw hate spewed on the news story comments.

What isolation must that child gunman have been going through? What fear do the rest of the students face now? These questions wrecked me as I awaited getting my own girls from their school.

I’ll be the first to admit that I failed in telling my girls in the way that seemed most fit. Rather than rolling through the drive like I usually do to pick them up I parked so that I could give them a hug and tell them I loved them. This was good. But, in my head, I wanted to give them time to be the things a kids day should be made of. To tell me about their day and play with their friends and go to dance and then have an eye to eye discussion at supper.

I didn’t get that time. Before I knew it they knew (a piece) of the day’s details. I shuffled off the tap floor to sit in a dressing room and confirm with my girls that this world isn’t always kind. I watched darkness mask their eyes and life rip out innocence. The fact that the words were exiting my mouth felt surreal. The fact that others within the same space were more directly impacted suffocating.

And yet there was a peace. An expansion of trust I didn’t know would grow within horror. “Ask us anything,” we said. And they did.

Many of their questions we could not answer. This world is an imperfect place with broken people, and that became our crux. People can speculate why and verbally vomit opinions, but this debate gets us nowhere. It doesn’t help a boy who lacked ability to express himself without violence, and it most certainly doesn’t improve the future for our own kids.

I am on fire for love and connection with these young ones. They don’t need to know the storm within the gunman’s heart. They need to better understand how to handle their own.

“There is a lot we can’t explain,” we admitted, “but here’s what we know. No matter what you face, or what questions you have, or what temptations present, or what problem you feel a part of you can come to us because if we don’t work through our feelings all of us will snap in one way or another and do or say something we wish we could take back.”

It’s a fight for their heart that I’m realizing now more than ever will take diligent awareness of when they are just being quiet and when there is more behind the mask. It’s an awareness that we care and want to hear them that I will need to continue repeating. It’s a prayer-filled journey that can’t be done any way than on my knees.

Go home. Love your family.

I’m praying with you all as you face unique discussions in your own home relative to your position in the event. There will be no one size fits all approach. Just a whole lot of prayer that we can wisely think on the fly for more personal discussion we never imagined having.

After bedtime I went into the girls’ rooms to sneak a final kiss. My 8-year-old was awake. “Why are you still up, sweetie?,” I questioned. “I’m scared about school.” And thus I entered into the most prized moment of the whole day. The sharing that was unfolding and the time that I needed to make. Suddenly the time on the clock had no value. I climbed up into her top bunk (a feat in itself) and laid next to her, taking her hand. We spoke about how we know her principal, and office staff, and teacher loves her. I shared with her the rarity of this event (although Oregon already made me liar) and the beautiful heart of educators. Love that drove one administrator towards a gun and the bleeding principal to an intercom system to let them know he was okay and settle into their spirit that they would be too.

Before her lids fell I whispered, “I’m so glad we got to have this talk.” Something I’m sure I would NEVER have imagined myself saying only hours earlier. Then I worked my way down the ladder and reviewed an email of gratitude I sent to our office staff and my girls’ teachers  who, I know, love them like their own. Once you get your littles to bed I challenge you to do the same.

May God usher us all through the moments.

xx Melissa

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Real Mom Confessions

Doing these real mom confessions with y'all has made me acutely aware of how fast these weeks fly back. How did you do this week? Mine felt busy with not a lot of extra time to breathe. In fact, last night I decided it was perfectly acceptable to let the dirty dishes lie and read my bible study instead. I went to bed with the counter a mess but woke up refreshed. Give yourself a break where you need it, too.

On to real mom confessions.

1. Fish death. Hallelujah! We begin where we left off with confession two last week. Remember how my children were so in love with these fish? Well, Hank went to meet his Maker. We had a floater. Meanwhile, the bowl started to stink something fierce. It was nauseating. I don't even drink but if I did I imagine the sensation I had around this bowl is what drunkenness is like. A bowl cleaning had to go down and I was not the person for the job because....gross. My love has limits. I googled "how to clean a fish bowl" so my man could be the hero and this came up? I mean, seriously, who has time to put that much effort into 38 cent fish? As I read it aloud my hubby's eyes got so big I cried real tears laughing.

That night we put the girls to bed and Grace says, "I'm getting a little misty eyed thinking of Hank."
Me: I'm sorry, honey. I'm getting a little misty eyed thinking we have three fish still alive.

Probably not my finest parenting moment but she laughed.

The fish pressed on Friday. The bowl already stunk again. My prayer request became very specific. Jesus take these fish. Take them from my home. 

Saturday morning we had three more floaters. I jumped with joy. Meanwhile Grace and Hannah did this

Oh my gosh, you guys, I had a goldfish memorial ON MY DINING ROOM TABLE. How long does a good mom leave the memorial on the dining room table? I asked myself and a few friends. I'm still not sure the answer on that, but the flower was shriveled and dead Sunday night so I had the girls repeat after me, "Thank you, Lord, for the time with our fish. Now it is through."

The fish bowl is clean and back in the garage never to be used again.

2.  Coffee without grounds. I made coffee without grounds and still drank it. 8am sports should be illegal on a Saturday. Enough said.

3. "You don't take me to the doctor when I break bones." This is what one of my blessings said last night in front of a bunch of other moms at dance. Awesome. Allow me to clarify my fellow mothers and teachers of her school - because stuff like this always comes out in free writing - I do take her to the doctor every time it is NECESSARY. She did fall off her scooter earlier in the summer and may have broken a bone but when I called into the doctor's office our pediatrician said based of her ability to still move it without bad pain they wouldn't splint it or do anything special anyway because it wouldn't change the healing process. I did my due diligence. Yesterday, the aforementioned child, fell again on the scooter when she hit uneven cement and her hand hurt but it had minimal swelling and no bruising plus she could move it enough to not want ice on it and play outside with her friends. I think she's fine but if that turns out not to be true I will bring her in because we would never forego necessary medical treatment. In other news, beware of scooter danger.

4. "I need to get on my man..." This is what I said to a committee chair at school who is donating some prizes for All Pro Dad, which the love of my life is leading at our girls'  school this year. In my defense, I meant in terms of his plan for prizes but this lady, who has the best sense of humor, totally burst out laughing, taking it a whole different way. Did I mention we were in the school office when this transpired? :) Hilarity all around.

Kidding aside, I can't wait to watch Charlie thrive in this role. He is so passionate about the program and eager to grow in this opportunity. He's creating a folder and thinking through food and even took a vacation day the day before his first meeting to make sure he has everything ready. I married well.

I'll be supporting you with my, "This girl loves her Charlie," shirt, babe!

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Real Mom Confessions

It's Wednesday! Life has felt like a casserole this week. Lots of random ingredients that make days warm the soul. From the sharing of tears with people I care about over dreams broken and prayerful hopes unfulfilled to joint celebration over a new Dr. Seuss field trip I'm offering at the dance studio to volunteering in classrooms, laundry piles and an air conditioning system that went out on the seemingly HOTTEST day in September. From Ava learning to write 5's, to talking puberty, to quiet and crazy family moments...I'm better for the makings of this week.

So what went down?

1. Falling at Family Fun Night. Yes, I literally went down. Our school puts on the most awesome event each year (thanks to dedicated volunteers) for entire families to come and have fun. This year it happened to be a particularly windy night and someone's plate blew away. In a split second move I decided that it would be heroic of me to chase the plate. In my mind's eye, I'm already looking pretty ridiculous. When I finally caught up to the plate I put my sandal over it in secure position only it wasn't so secure and my FEET WENT OUT FROM UNDER ME, causing me to fly into the air (now most definitely looking ridiculous) and land in a million directions. You guys, my knee was skinned. My leggings have a hole in them. My arm is bruised. And, I scraped nail polish off my feet AND fingers. How is that even possible?! I popped up like a pop-tart and returned to the volunteer table with decision that plate littering with abandon was the way to go the rest of the night. Sorry, God, I promise I love your earth. It's a good thing I never tried to play soccer.

2. Fish. My children won three of them this week. They were ECSTATIC! So, we get these fine little goldfish home and begin tending to them. They weren't looking overly happy so we put them in a plastic Christmas Tupperware

But even Jesus with us could not save these fish. They preferred life with their Maker and were all floating by 11:30PM.

What is a parent to do? Replacement fish. That is what this parent decided we were doing so I texted my man and asked him to go to Walmart at MIDNIGHT and get three new goldfish, which he did, only he ACCIDENTALLY GRABBED FOUR so we were busted before we even lied. I didn't want to get into the whole birds and the bees/they had a baby thing so we just called our bluff. They didn't care in the least because they were now up one fish.

Then, as I'm making their breakfast, Hannah says, "What's skinny dipping?"

Because my man included this sign.

I explain that it's a joke because fish don't wear clothes but we will always keep our clothes on and practice modesty. This is when I desperately begin to pray that anything about this will die. Much like the original fish. Only when I picked the girls up from school, Hannah told me she told Mrs. H, her former kindergarten teacher, all about the sign. Thanks, love.

3. Block towers. Ava is into the "Let's build a block tower" phase. I can do this for a short while but after like, say, our millionth tower, I'm kinda ready to move on. My solution, I started singing "Who Stole the Cookies from the Cookie Jar" with her. Never mind that there were only two of us. Desperate moms are creative people. We made up different voices for our family and friends like you were here. Are you wondering if you were one of them? You'll never know :)

4. Whip Nae Nae. I'm choreographing the musical at school and thought I'd be cutting edge cool by adding in the whip nae nae move. Jimmy Fallon did it during his lip sync battle so, clearly, I'd learned from the hippest. However, when I unveiled my cool to my girls they informed I was "doing it all wrong."

I axed it but laughed over the story with the music teacher who doubles as a friend. Later that night I get a text from her that all these 4th/5th grade boys are whip nae naeing (if that isn't a word I predict it makes the dictionary next year) at the football game. So what do I do? STUDY Silentó's music video. Ava even asked me to read to her and the words, "Hold on, honey, as soon as I know how to whip nae nae I can read to you" came out of my mouth. Shame on me. Plus I was saying his name like silencio, as though it meant quiet in Spanish or something, and that is totally wrong. Thankfully his music video helped me with that too. I'm not cutting edge cool, but I'll have the kids duped anyway. Mrs. F, it's in. We shall whip nae nae with the best of 'em.

Each week I find myself surprised by the number of you who tell me you can't wait for these confessions. That they're good for your soul. If I may drop all sarcasm for just a moment, I'd like to suggest that maybe it's because it highlights what we all know to be true. We're all imperfect hot messes. We strive so hard to be the perfect everything raising the perfect children and Satan uses that imagined standard to shake us with doubt. You're not enough. You're a failure. WHATEVER, friends. You are a human in a pinterest perfect world. Yes we fall. Yes we make parenting mistakes. Yes our kids have missteps. But, you are HIS. Your confessions fall into the arms of grace. So give yourself and the person next to you a break. Hang with each other in the laughter, crazy, calm, and tears because we all live there. And, just keep swimmin.'

xx Melissa

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Book Every Parent of an 8-10 Year Old Girl Should Own

When I found out September was resource month on Mothers of Daughters I immediately knew what I needed to share with you.

The Care & Keeping of You 1: The Body Book for Younger Girls was introduced to me by a good friend who has a daughter ahead of mine. It’s an amazing resource for girls whose bodies are beginning to grow and change.

I know. Deep breath, mamas.

This American Girl book brilliantly introduces puberty through a marvelous mix of simple, non-threatening messages like the importance of a good night of sleep, why you need to brush your hair, and wearing sunscreen with “biggies” like picking a bra and getting your period.

Author Dannah Gresh states 40% of girls starting their periods have never heard about it from their own parents. This is a problem. If we can’t even go to them with the most basic details of God’s design how do we expect them to feel comfortable coming to us to discuss (and parent them through) temptations and life-changing relationship decisions?

I think much of our modern day struggle is the need to discuss these expected changes with girls who are not necessarily of age for the complete birds and bees chat.  Breast buds and bras feel manageable. But, how do we introduce the more significant changes to developing girls who still play like children? Most girls are menstruating now at 12. Some as early as eight.

To finish reading please visit MODSquad here

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Real Mom Confessions

It's Wednesday! We made it through another week, friends! I've been looking forward to writing this real mom confessions post all day because I find myself laughing as I write....and laughter is just good for the soul.

So, starting off

1. Messed up supper. That is right I've thrown balanced out the window for tonight and mama don't care. My man is on his way back from a work trip and when he is gone Mac & Cheese for supper it is. Somehow the joy of getting the best meal in a box makes life more doable for my kids on days he is gone so I go with it. Hannah just asked to have Sun Chips on the side and I said, "sure." I'm sure there are some valuable grains it will add to her meal.  We'll get back to balanced tomorrow when our family is balanced again :)

2. Arrays. Remember my back to school edition last week? Well, now that we are in the swing of things I've already been made to realize how little I know. I think every time they change terminology in a school system a new "explanation for you dinosaurs," for example, should come home. Grace got her first math homework identifying arrays in the home. This is how that went down:
Her: Can you help me find some arrays?
Me: Like arrays of plates or arrays of dolls or what?
{She looks at me with a "how in the world did you pass elementary school" look}
Her: Mom, it's for multiplication.


Then she goes to her dad, "Mom didn't know what an array was today."
He looks at me all proud that he might know an English word his author wife doesn't. "You mean a wide array of items?"

She shook her head and I flat out celebrated. Nice try, babe!

3. My robe. These days are exhausting. Adjusting to back to school rigor is no joke for the kids or the parents. Needless to say, once I'm done going places for the day, I'm just done. PJs and my robe it is. Checking out. The other night the kids were outside so I tried to angle myself around the window when I kindly yelled out, "Kids, it's time to come in for supper" and one goes, "Are you in your robe?" The horror. Yes, dear loves, I am and I suggest you come in and get in yours too. Sleep is a beautiful thing :)

And in the spirit of food while my glorious Mac & Cheese boils,

4. Petrified pretzels. The tiny tot (who started preschool so no longer so tiny) was waiting for her sisters at dance the other night and pulls out a pretzel treat. You guys, they were from recital. In May. "Ava, those are going to be so gross. Don't put that in your mouth." She doesn't care and tries it. "It's good," she tells me. I can't imagine it to be true so I tried one. Oh my stars, they tasted like communion wafers. Into the garbage. Sorry, kid.

So there's some real life from the Nesdahl house this week. I hope you had a great one!

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Saturday, September 12, 2015

Jesus, Choices, & Learning to Ride a Bicycle

This summer my four year old pronounced that she wanted the training wheels off her bike.

I met this announcement with equal parts excitement and fear. It is fun to see children make strides but my hubby’s rule that once they’re off they stay off also made this a scary move. I am the one home with them during the day and I could already hear the crying and carrying on of a girl unable to ride with all the neighborhood kids if this didn’t go well.

As Ava put on the knee pads and wrist guards and helmet, I started with natural words of praise. They weren’t enough. Now, I don’t know what led me to think I needed to be outside for this training because I never was with the previous two, but I did. So, I moved on to the next parenting move every honest parent knows. Bribery. “Ava, when you learn how to ride your bike you can pick ice cream from any place you want to celebrate.”

I knew CherryBerry was in my future.

With her goal in mind, Ava mounted the bike and moved her little legs from her daddy towards me. Only, as she would get going, she’d look to where the action was and fall.

“Eyes up, Ava. Keep your eyes up.”

Back toward her dad she went, trying so very hard, but again taking her focus off where it needed to be and crashing.

This went on and on, my frustration growing as I saw neighborhood playtime turning into an epic meltdown. Come on, sweetheart, eyes on the prize. And then I officially lost my marbles.

“Ava, you know the story of Peter in the Bible? Jesus was out on the water in front of him telling him to come. When Peter would look down, he’d sink. But, if he kept his eyes up, he was able to walk on the water. Keep your eyes up and you will ride without difficulty. It will be so great. But, if you only focus on what is happening in the moment you will fall.”

She looked at me like I had four eyes and my man slapped his hand over his mouth to stop laughter. “Point well taken, honey,” he recovered, “but I’m not sure it’s going to help her ride the bike.”

Touché. I think God brought the story to mind more for me than her. What Ava was struggling with and I wished for her to immediately get right so mirrored the human condition.

There are times when we are all trying to move through life with sight on the best when we get distracted by a moment, a feeling. This happens with sexual temptations, alcohol and drugs, decisions made with friends, things we’re looking at, financial concerns, job status, medical situations, worry (dear Lord, am I guilty of that final one), and the list goes on and on and on. The overwhelming of the moment pulls our eyes from the One who says, “look at me,” and we crash.

Chill out and ease up on her, woman. Her struggle is yours and everyone else’s.

She was trying. We try. And sometimes we don’t get it quite right.

As is the case with the bike, sometimes we get bumps and bruises along the way. Sometimes physical and emotional scars that can never be fully healed.

But that isn’t the end of our story.

I watched my incredibly patient husband pick up the bike and dust Ava off. “It’s okay. Let’s try again.”

Oh my gosh, there is nothing hotter than a father nurturing the heart of his child.

He steadied her bike. He pointed to the goal. The same goal as before because she is still capable.

What can’t always be erased from an earthly perspective is from the heavenly.

Like Ava, going to her daddy, listening to his voice, believing that he still believed in her, we go to our Heavenly Daddy and he cheers, “It’s okay. Let’s try again.”

Maybe you fell off the bike. Emotion suctioned you in and you took your eyes off the prize. Well, I have good news, you don’t need to give up or settle. You can saddle back up with your eyes on the Best.

It’s okay. Let’s try again.

You have a God who believes in you.

C’mon, Ava! CherryBerry awaits :)

xx Melissa

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